They say men are from Mars, but the first person ever to step on the red planet will likely be a woman, according to NASA. Bridenstine pointed to that mission as an example of how NASA has leveraged commercial rockets successfully.
Welten added that one of the main purposes of return missions is to collect samples that will be studied immediately and also 10 to 30 years in the future, when technology and research methods have improved. The Gateway is fully funded in the 2020 budget proposal, Bridenstine said.
"ULA recognizes the unparalleled capabilities of NASA's Space Launch System for enabling efficient architectures in Cislunar and Mars exploration".
The budget - $500m (£380m) less than past year - will "continue building the key components of the exploration campaign that will send astronauts to the moon and beyond", NASA said. He apparently was referring to 2014, when a Delta IV Heavy rocket built by United Launch Alliance in Decatur, Ala., launched a test Orion capsule on a four-hour experimental trip around Earth. The group represents aerospace firms including Boeing and Lockheed Martin. If private rockets are used - and Bridenstine did not list preferences or mention any by name - the SLS would make its launch debut for NASA's second exploration mission by 2023.
At the NASA Ames Research Center/Bay Area Environmental Research Institute, Alexander Sehlke will lead a team whose mission is to complete an experiment started 50 years ago whose aim was to see how volatiles like water are stored on the moon's radiation-bombed surface. "NASA has a history of not meeting launch dates and I'm trying to change that". We welcome the opportunity to join NASA in the flights of Orion, SLS and the Exploration Ground Systems that support these journeys, and the rapid expansion of science, commerce and human exploration at the Moon and beyond.
That makes SpaceX the more likely option for Bridenstine's suggestion, because of its lower costs and a high volume of launches. Orion is being built by Lockheed Martin, and the service module is being provided by the European Space Agency and its partner, Airbus Defense and Space. These samples are said to have been brought to Earth in vacuum-sealed containers via Apollo 17 back in 1972. Bridenstine admitted that "SLS is struggling to meet its schedule", and he said NASA is now considering alternatives.